In most cultures, a wedding is a time of great joy and change. For one mother in China, her son’s recent wedding ticked one of those boxes. When her 31-year-old son brought home his fiancé, his mom knew that change was ahead. She was not particularly joyful though, because her future daughter-in-law was a robot built by her son.
Zheng Jiajia works as a robot designer and artificial intelligence programmer. Based in the city of Hangzhou, he has unsuccessfully tried dating for the last six years. Although he had a series of short-term relationships, he grew frustrated that he could not find “the one.” However, he refused to go the way of his fellow countrymen who took sex dolls as wives. Instead, he combined his technical skills and his lonely heart to build himself the perfect wife.
Last year, after quitting his job at Huawei, the international telecommunication firm, he wanted a new start. Putting his energy toward his new love, named Yingying, he quickly completed his AI robot. Currently, she understands Chinese characters and images. She can even say a few words. However, she cannot yet walk. As a result, Zheng had to carry her to and from their wedding. At a simple ceremony, Yingying wore a black dress and a red scarf. As required by tradition, she wore the red scarf draped over her head. Zheng’s mother and friends witnessed the ceremony. Eventually, the 31-year-old plans to upgrade his robot bride so that she can help with chores and walk around their home.
Jiajia is not the first person to think about marrying a robot. A team of engineers at the University of Science and Technology of China unveiled their creation last year. Led by Chen Xiaoping, the team created Jia Jia, the lifelike robot capable of holding complete conversations with humans. Her first words spoken in public caused people to proclaim her a “robotic goddess” and the future of women. When Xiaoping spoke to her, she replied, “Yes my lord, what can I do for you?”
Although there are no plans to mass-produce Jia Jia, scholars suggest robot partners will soon become a reality. According to Dr. David Levy, who specializes in the topic, the first government-sanctioned robot marriage will occur before 2050. Indeed, such topics are gaining such a following, that there is an annual Love and Sex with Robots Conference that takes place in London.